Posts made in May, 2017


On my wife’s arm in 1958 a little mole grew, it was notable because it was quite dark.  Next it developed a little red spot right in the centre of the dark area.  It really looked different so she went to the Doctor who removed the mole and sent it for a biopsy.  Several days later I received a call from the Doctor telling me that I had 24 hours to get my wife to a hospital in Winnipeg the capital of Manitoba or he would not be responsible for her life.   The phone call really got my attention.  At the time we were living in Flin Flon, Manitoba a well established mining town and from there to Winnipeg it was a 400 kilometer drive.  We made the long trip and as soon as we arrived in Winnipeg Sonia went directly to the hospital, she was admitted and the operation took place the same day.  The surgery excised a large scoop out of her forearm arm, right down to the muscle; she still has the prominent scar.  Sonia had to be examined every three months for the next five years and after that she was published as being cured, one of 49 people in North America.  In those days curing malignant melanoma was an unusual event.

Fast forward to the spring of 1999 Sonia had to have a knee replacement in Burnaby BC and we booked into a motel not far from the hospital.  The Motel building was shaped like a square and in the centre was an outdoor swimming pool.  The rooms were closely adjacent to the pool separated by a solid board fence.  Sonia was in hospital recovering and I was in the motel.  One afternoon I was idly looking out over the pool and there were two young men sitting in deck chairs having a drink and taking in the sun.  Soon one man left, I remarked that it was a great day to the remaining man and soon we were in a conversation about the trip he was going to make on a vacation to Indonesia the very next day.

I noted on his arm what looked to me to be a very well developed malignant melanoma.  So I said ” have you ever shown that black mole on your arm to a Doctor?” he replied that he had about seven years ago.  At that time the Doctor told him not to worry about it.  I told him that I thought it might be very serious and that he should go to emergency and see a Doctor before he left for Indonesia.

In October of 1999 Sonia was having her other knee replaced and I just happened to be in the lobby of the motel and a guy came over and gave me a big hug and said the Doctors said that I owed you a truck load of beer.  I was lost. Then he reminded me about our conversation at the pool back in the spring.  He took my advice, he went to emergency, he did not get to go to Indonesia instead he went under a long treatment program to cure his melanoma.  At least he was still alive and working and looking very much like a survivor.   I think that sticking your nose into someone else’s business can be risky but it can be rewarding.

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As city people move through life not just a few wish to find a place with a rural setting.  I am not talking about the very wealthy who own sections of manicured land with a huge mansion; rather I want to discuss smaller parcels of undeveloped land with a bushy flavour.   There are lots of small parcels of land with residences and a few out buildings.  The great majority of these small developed properties were built by DIY people who have varying skill levels from 0 to 100%.  Often too there may be few or no building codes that are enforced.  So when people go shopping for that rural hideaway it is ever more “caveat emptor” let the buyer beware.

Human beings naturally have an affinity for water bodies, ponds, lakes, rivers and oceans.  This being the case it is not surprising that when people look for recreational or retirement property they want to be near the water.  Another much valued asset is the view, most people like hilly rolling lands. These are the features that people most seek out; they are the most important.  There are two major considerations that are often overlooked, will the rains flood you out and even carry you and your home away, or  that beautiful hill that you perched your house upon suddenly turn into soupy mud, and float you and your home to lower lands with possible catastrophic results.

You don’t need to be a geologist to pick out a piece of land but you do need knowledge of what the area you have chosen is made of.  Rock solid is a common expression and it does have meaning.  Very roughly there are three kinds of rock igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary.  The first two are very hard often having a crystalline structure or in places it may be granular.  The third tends to be comprised of small grains and in massive form look stratified; you can see the layers that were deposited.  These rock structures are stable and short of an earthquake or faulting are good places to build.  It is helpful if the bedrock is covered with 5 or more meters of workable materials like clay, marl or other glacial deposits.  Glacial activity will only be found in northern countries; the US states close to the Canadian border were also glaciated.  The big item is stability and to know about this you may require the professional services of a geologist for an opinion.

Mountains are wondrous to view but if you chose to locate at the bottom of a mountain take a close look at the location.  If you see lots of broken rock in a sloping pile chances are that that is a talus slope. It tells you that from time to time pieces of the mountain from far up come crashing down and break into little pieces or even great big pieces, you don’t want to be there.  Take a look up the mountain and if you see a narrow line of hardwood trees extending downwards that may be a chute.  This is an area where snow water and  snow can come cascading down and ruin your whole day.  Commonly mountain valleys have rivers and these rivers almost always flood in the spring.   Make sure that the property of interest is above the highest flood level.

If you are looking at lowlands like you see in the Galveston area in Texas,  they are nice for fishing, swimming and wading.  But you will notice that all of the houses are built up on stilts so that in flood tides the houses don’t get flooded.  Galveston area is a good example.  There are thousands of kilometers (miles)  of waterfront land and all of it now is capable more that ever before of flooding you out. Be careful where you chose to buy.  Often some government agency may have data on flooding but now because of climate change they may be out of date.

Treed lands present wildfire risk and if you like flat land where you can watch your dog run away from you for three days in a row watch out for drought and dust storms.  People have short memories.  It was less than 100 years ago when the great western plains turned into a desert.  Farmers went broke and left the land. Some lands should never have been cultivated; wetlands are a case in point.  The stabilizing prairie grass was ploughed under and crops were planted, then when the drought came the decision to upset the natural environment proved to be catastrophic.

Today farms tend to be measured in square miles (sections) with absolutely nothing to stop the wind. It is only a matter of time before history will repeat itself and those big green machines that were seeming built without a thought for the environment will sit idle.  Big corporate farms and big machinery  may very well be the road to disaster.  Humanity sadly never learns not to demand more from the land than the land can give.

 

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This blog is about the cost of medical drugs (pharmaceuticals) but first I want to say a few words about junior mining stocks.  Discovering a mineral deposit has changed; in the old days independent prospectors would go out on the land and look for mineralization or favourable kinds of rock.  If they found valuable minerals or a place where they may be they staked a claim and usually sold the claim to a junior mining development company.  If valuable ore was struck the company would sell the claim to a senior development company or a mining company for further development.  However more often than not there was insufficient ore to make a mine worthwhile.  The result was that good mining properties sold for high market values, representing the cost of failures as well as the ones that were successful.  Not infrequently holders of mining interests have to hold their assets pending more favourable commodity prices.

There is a rough parallel to the mining exploration and the medical drug industry.  There are roughly 484 million people in Canada USA and Mexico. There may be as many human illnesses as there are stars in the sky.  Sometimes someone may have a very rare medical problem that only one person in 10 million may have.  Finding a medical drug for the ailment may take a lot of research by one or more people who have pharmaceutical expertise to discover a combination of elements, compounds or bacteria and heaven knows what else to cure the rare element.  What is more the ailment may require just one treatment to cure the problem for life. That one treatment may cost one million dollars!

Medical drug companies are not just composed of those brainy experts who discover the cure,  they are just like the junior mining companies they have a board of directors, executive staff, shareholders, office staff, physical office buildings, a plant and everybody wants their just financial reward.  When a great medical drug is discovered it is payday for everyone.  However, a lot of people need to be paid even if the discovery is a dud which quite often happens.  So like a mining exploration company finding gold there are lots of paybacks to make up for the losses and it is the same with the medical drug industry.  The shares on the stock market skyrocket on the promise of earning money and drops in its absence.  The results of this system is that medical drugs can be very expensive, like one pill for a million dollars.

Medical drug companies may question “what is a human life worth” and maybe it boils down to what ever the traffic will bear. Sometimes researchers serendipitously, just by accident find a new use for an established pharmaceutical.  The price gouging for the new use can be nothing short of disgusting.  It seems unethical and even cruel to put a price on life but even with a single supplier of health services, the government, there are limitations.  If you live where medical services are sold as a for profit service it may happen that most people cannot afford the premiums for a comprehensive pharmaceutical plan that a health insurance company would have to charge.  Medical insurance companies also have to earn money have a difficult dilemma of paying these high priced exotic cures because it can reflect upon their client’s premiums and their bottom line. In Canada some Provinces the governments manage health care.  The pharmacies sell medical drugs under a provincial plan  and often payment for medical drugs are charged in accordance with your income, low income people do not pay anything.

Before the new kind of capitalism emerged universities, at least in Canada, were places where research took place preformed by tenured teaching professors whose duties were to teach and research.  Banting and Best conducted their research for insulin in Toronto hospitals and the University of Toronto.  The Discovery was patented and eventually given to the world at little or no cost for the benefit of mankind.  Some people in the pharmaceutical industry have it all wrong, they think that it is greed and money that drives researchers,  it really is dedication to science and the desire to help others.

I think a better system would be that the three governments of Mexico, United States and Canada form a publicly funded pharmaceutical institution.  The sole goal of the institution would be to produce new medical drugs, conduct research and pay for the cost of running the institution by selling medical drugs that their 484 million consumers can afford.  Just think if the cost of a very highly priced pharmaceutical  was averaged over 484 million buyers, it would be affordable to all of them. The plan would not upset the existing industry except the industry would be faced with the discipline of real competition.  This would create a single desk and that would do a lot to make things more efficient.  This scenario is probably quite over simplified.  But nobody should suffer hardship because they cannot afford medical drugs.  The present system is old style, antiquated, inefficient  and way overloaded with too many people who want to profit from doing very little, things have to change.

 

 

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From the northern US across Canada and Alaska the Moose populations are declining, the only exception seems to be Newfoundland where populations are still in the tens of thousands.  In the past ten years population decrease has been significant.  There is no shortage of speculation about why but there seems to be no meaningful suggestions for remedy.

Clear cut logging may be one problem, but not directly. Clear cuts for harvesting trees only takes place where the trees are mature and moose don’t likely and shouldn’t eat conifers.  Some professionals also have suggested the birch twigs may not be good for them.  Clear cuts tend to be 10, 20 or more hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres) in size.  Although, as I have pointed out before, clear cuts will regenerate but are not at all the same as a wildfire. A regenerating wildfire area with the ensuing new vegetation amongst the fallen and standing dead trees is the key.  The fallen dead trees are all important for the moose for they, the dead fallen trees, protect the moose from the wolves.

Another problem is the predators mainly bears and wolves. Bears? Yes bears are bad for attacking moose calves, climbing upon their backs and putting them down.  In some areas it is thought that bears are a bigger problem than the wolves.

However, moose ticks may be the biggest problem of all. Moose ticks  are big and can be all over the animal’s body.  It appears that the warmer climate has been a boost for the ticks and a hit for the moose.  Tick infestations in some areas may to be on the rise and some of the animal infestations are in the thousands and thousands on one animal, some animals die from the parasite.  Naturally when a moose is sick  with a sever infestation it is more at risk from wolf  and bear predation. Also we know that deer ticks carry Lyme disease what we do not appear to know is whether or not moose ticks are carrying a pathogen that is killing the moose.

Some scientists who study moose think the warmer winters are a big problem.  Apparently moose will lay down flat in the snow to cool off, we have seen that.  Even livestock can get overheated in the winter.   Some farmers will build their animal shelters so that they are not facing the winter sun.  Unfortunately the moose do not have that benefit.

There are a lot of unknowns about all of the many things that are causing the moose to rapidly disappear. It does not seem that there is a focused international effort between Canada and the United States to address the moose problem.  There are bags and bags of boards, commissions and what have you of Americans and Canadians working together to solve common problems , the Great Lakes being one of them so why not one for the moose?

When the Bison (Buffalo) in Canada were just about extinct some farmers were allowed to start breeding them to build a sustainable herd.  The effort was quite successful but there were two main problems.  The bison had a poor weight gain ratio – food in for weight gain compared to domestic cattle.  The next problem although evolution did a great job in designing them for survival as for being a domesticated animal they were designed backwards.  Bison have huge front ends, rib cages, and little tiny haunches where the steaks are.  However,as Hughie Long allegedly once said “out of the evil comes the good”.  The result was that the bison were saved from extinction and now there are wild herds in some parts of Canada.

The Russians tried to domesticate moose and there were some pictures of the moose in harnesses.  I don’t know if the pictures were for real or not.  The moose should be forever one of the most wonderful residents of the forest.  So what are we going to do to keep them around?  Of course we need to understand what is causing the drastic decline and how to arrest it.   Possibly the only way this can be done is by way of incarceration, a large fenced off area where the moose can be monitored.  They would need an appropriate diet and protection from human and other predation and be free from ticks and other parasites.  The medical profile could be developed and research conducted to discover what should be done to save the moose.  I am absolutely sure that the science and technology is available to do the job.

There are many wildlife and wilderness non profit organizations that address wildlife and it may be a matter of developing an structure of interested entities to address the problem.   If you like this idea please push it with your local, provincial, state and national wildlife organizations as well as local provincial/state,  federally elected people and solicit their support to form an international committee to “Save the Moose” through scientific research on confined moose.  Thank you.

 

 

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In the Blog that we wrote about “marketing your product” we mentioned that we called our panels “Anglewood Products” but we failed to mention the importance of giving your product a name.  Even if ” Mary Jones ” is just making bread for the Village she should name it Mary’s Home Made Bread.  Hopefully something more imaginative than that but you get the idea.

Another thing, the accounts your have or want to have quote them a “cost landed price” .  Meaning that you add the freight costs into the cost of the product so when the stuff lands at your client’s place all they have to do is sign the bill of lading.  Your customers will really like it.  But you may have a bonus too.   Forget about Canada Post and US Post but if you are dealing with a commercial carrier and you prepay you establish yourself as a shipper.  If you ship frequently enough you will get a discount on the shipping costs.

If the competition is not too stiff you may be able to do a little averaging with your shipping costs by charging closer accounts a little more for freight and use the savings to help you lengthen your radius of operation by charging farther accounts less.

The product we were selling, wood panels with the bark on could only be cut six months of the year, in that time we had to get a year supply.  So we increased our warehouse size and then we got a bright idea.  We had a 9 meter Catalac catamaran moored on the Sunshine Coast, BC and thought that sailing in the summer was the way to go.  We told all  our customers if they would buy a 90 day supply that they didn’t have to pay for 90 days.  We thought the stock may as well sit in their warehouse as ours.  Our customers liked the idea and they almost all purchased quite a bit more than if it was a regular order.  Now you don’t have to go sailing to offer extended payment time.  For trusted customers you can make that offer any time.

Packaging can be expensive.  If you are using cardboard for packaging two good sources of supply are furniture stores and auto body shops.  If you tell them you want cardboard they will save it for you.  But when they call you have to go and get it or they will pitch it out right away.   In some jurisdictions cardboard disposal is a problem.  If you are in one of these areas your will find possessors of cardboard very easy to deal with.  When we talk about savings like this there is an assumption that your are a single or partner operation doing all of your own work.  If you are hiring people it may not work that well.

If you make valuable art or other high priced items often financing is necessary.  Most people are not set up to do a lot of their own financing but at the same time if financing is not available the sale may disappear. If you have a good credit union or a community bank they may provide financing for your customer.  But be careful make sure the financing is “without recourse” meaning if your customer fails to make the payments that you are not liable to return the money to the lending agency.  There are companies that will buy your sales contract and pay you out and then collect from your customer.  If you become a steady customer they will often give you a participation bonus on your patronage.

 

 

 

 

 

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